Resting By Still Waters

There is still a great deal of processing going on for me. I am still battling demons who repeatedly whisper to me that if I was “stronger”, “more determined” I would recover more quickly. I put up a resistance to these thoughts mostly before sleep or as I awake in the morning. You know, the quieter time of the day when the world is quiet and I am nestled in warmth and comfort.

A few days ago as I was safe in this space of quiet and comfort I remembered the image of still waters reflecting back the treasures and beauty of Nature on the shores that contained them. Various Buddhist and other meditative narratives speak of the meditative mind being like still waters rippling in concentric circles as thoughts are tossed disruptively out like throwing stones into the calm waters. I realized that is what my mind is like these days….on occasion it is still and reflective, while other days it is full of the ripples and disruption of thoughts of feeling impatient, harboring doubt and regrets. Not unlike waters in Nature, my mind is not easily stilled or calmed. One small stone or another always seems to be thrown in from somewhere behind or within me. Whatever reflective, peaceful state I may be in, the waters and mirrored images are sometimes disrupted and ripples begin to distort the reflection.

(photographs by me, Ithaca NY)

Granted, my figurative tossing of stones into the calm waters of my thoughts is my decision, and just like in Nature, there is no true prevention for something causing ripples in the waters or in my thoughts and emotional well being. My reactions to words, events, experiences, other people all create ripples. I then must take  deep centering breath and just like stopping along the shore of a lake to watch the ripples slowly melting back into still waters, I wait for my own thoughts to settle again. If I pause long enough I understand that things are not always tossed into the waters. There are times when the mirrored calmness remains as such, void of disruptions. It is here where I am nurtured and embraced, free of the distortions of the ripples, wrapped in a soft blanket of clarity and focus. This is where I can see the calm waters of my heart and soul. These are the shores where I pause to look out over the waters of my life and find peaceful spaces to observe what is reflected.

Times when the waters are particularly kinetic, I find myself going back to the Metta prayer:

prflg_gr_metta

These words line the path back to the shores where calm waters softly kiss the land. My own thoughts, fears, desires are gently redirected to less turbulent places. My life as reflected back to me by these calm waters is in focus and framed by the eternal clarity and beingness of “just this moment”.

 

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Of Being In The World

“We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places as well—places with names like trust and hope and faith. We can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear, to move toward others from a place of promise instead of anxiety. As we stand in one of those places, fear may remain close at hand and our spirits may still tremble. But now we stand on ground that will support us, ground from which we can lead others toward a more trustworthy, more hopeful, more faithful way of being in the world.”  ~~Parker Palmer

Horton Bay heron

drawing by me, Kathryn Howlett. Heron in Horton Bay, MI.

We don’t have to “BE” our fears.  You may be  familiar with ” be not afraid” . There are two dozen examples in the Bible.  It doesn’t tell us not to fear. It means we don’t have to “BE” our fears.

‘Fear’ feels like my middle name these days. It follows and haunts me. I feel as if my body and brain have betrayed me with this aneurysm. Some days I feel as if my fears weigh heavily on me and I am sinking. I don’t know how to toss the weight overboard. Sometimes it feels like I am holding on to a bouquet of helium/fear filled balloons and am being swept away and carried here and there with no control. To contemplate letting go of the fear only presents as another fear, falling and crash landing.  So, how do I get across the fault line of fear and to move instead to firmer ground of trust, hope and faith?
I look for places and time in the day where I can stand on steady ground and regain my balance and perspective. From these vantage points I can look out at the world and life around me with hope and trust.
To be aware of these places and times, I have to pause now and then to create a place of non movement and silence or near silence in order to be aware of them and to allow them to come to the forefront of my thoughts. In so doing I move gently towards a place of promise, away from fear.
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day 
is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”
Etty Hillesum
Sometimes I close my eyes and listen to music, or just close my eyes in silence. Sometimes I draw. Sometimes I read, but often that makes me think even more!! Focusing on my breath helps. Whatever aid I enlist has to come from a birthing point of awareness. I have to be mindful to create these spaces because they do not always give birth to themselves!!
These spaces of rest and quiet between my breaths nurture something deep inside of me. They set in motion self care and healing .
Within this space come the words and thoughts “Allow this to be a learning experience that you will grow from.” I don’t have to live from the place of, or to be “fear”.
I have to do three things. One, be mindful of the pauses and allow them to bring me a sense of peace and grounding. Two, to rest in those pauses. Three to look around and reach out to those who are near.
There are some days, or moments in the day when I forget and get wobbly and off balance. In those moments I have to call upon “trust” and reach or call out to those near by to steady me or maybe even catch me. It is okay for me to do that. Not only don’t I have to be perfectly balanced all the time, I need to give up the thought of possibly even being balanced all the time.
I am coming to understand that while I may not be able to be even keeled all the time, there is a centering that happens through the awareness itself. When I breathe deeply and regain my balance, there comes an easy awareness of the pause between breaths and I can rest for a time in the presence and grace of that pause. And healing comes forward wrapped in a gentle blanket of quiet, trust, hope and faith. And when I am wrapped in that blanket the whirling of my thoughts slow down, and I am able to “be” in a space of less worry and fear. A place of balance and awareness where allowing just being to be enough.
Awareness allows me to have days that do contain moments of the healing pauses. The softer hours of sunset and sunrise seem to be the more fertile times for the pausing to arise. The slowing breaths, the quieting of the mostly ever present endless commentary of dreams, thoughts and worries, opens the door and allows for the stepping out into quieter, less kinetic places in my mind. And here, not unlike being out in Nature on a mountain top or standing next to the lullaby of ocean waves greeting the sandy beaches, I find myself in the places Parker Palmer refers to : places with names like trust and hope and faith.
Signing off now to go visit one of those places for awhile. Going to reflect on the way I want to choose to “Be” in the world as I recover and recoup.
A previous post: The Pause Between Breaths

After The Rain

Good morning. There is about a 6 inch covering of snow on the ground so no, it is not raining here. The rain in the title refers to difficult times in life. We all know these moments….times when we can feel such intense emotions that we feel as if they are raining down on us and we attempt to seek cover to prevent us from becoming soaked or washed away.

If you have been following this blog you know I am recovering from a ruptured aneurysm.

 

“When after heavy rain the storm clouds disperse, is it not that they’ve wept themselves clear to the end?” ~Ghalib

lotus

Grief is our response to loss. Through grief we can feel the depth of our loss and resulting pain. We process to the degree to which we feel the truth of the pain, from not only loss, but what occasionally feels like betrayal. By allowing and feeling the process of grief we slowly begin to recognize, integrate and eventually accept these truths that come through grief. As we slowly integrate our thoughts and feelings there comes a time when we are ready to let go and the time has come to grieve. We can only let go and go forward if we honor and allow these feelings and to experience grief.

One result of the aneurysm has been the loss of memory. As I slowly came out of a drug induced  twilight of mostly sleep I became aware of the absence of the people I loved dearly. My husband and children, my sister and sweet friends flowed in and out of my hospital room, but where I wondered,were my parents and step mom?

In the course of inquiring about these missing loved ones I was told the three of these loved people had passed on years before. I assume the degree of shock and sorrow I experienced at this was not so different from the first time around. Writing this and recalling that shaking grief, I sigh heavily at the thought of experiencing it twice. How could I not remember my parents dying? Anger and sadness burst out of me. It was easier for me to believe my family standing in front of me were lying than to believe my parents and step mom were gone.

What I know to be true even without recalling the old memories is that I came to a point in time when it was time to let go and to grieve (again). There was absolutely nothing for me to do but to let go of the sorrow and feelings of loss and to grieve.

As I have worked with various therapists and as time has become a natural healer, I have regained some of these memories. I have a deep sense of gratitude in having them once again because, even as the first time, there was such healing and insight as I walked down the path of saying good bye and burying my parents. Yes, the deep, soul wrenching sorrow was there, but in coming to the point where I was able to honor the flood of feelings and emotions, I was then able to move forward.

Right now I feel as if I am going through a similar experience. I experience grief over having lost who I was. The aneurysm has left my body and my mind different, changed. Strength, stamina and coordination are off. Memory skills are weak….I live off a calendar so I can remember to take medication, doctors appointments when my children are home and when they are leaving. Because of both I feel dependent and fragile in ways I am not used to feeling. There is a sense of loss, grieving and often confusion.

Sometimes, when I am in the quiet space of just falling asleep or beginning to wake in the morning I understand on a tender, inner level that I can only let go and go forward if I honor and allow these feelings and to grieve, again. By allowing this I also have to allow myself to feel, come to terms with and release my grief about my going through the experience have having an aneurysm and all the associated medical procedures and surgeries with all the varying physical results of pain, discomfort, bruising, tiredness, and loss of independence. Most certainly this a different kind of loss and grief than of loosing a loved one to death, but in many ways I feel I have lost part of myself. I have “lost” the memories of the experiences that molded me to become the person I am, I have lost memories of love and tenderness.

Still, it is time to take in a breath and survey where I am mentally, physically and emotionally and to take the first steps to moving forward.

Some memories are returning. Although they linger behind a soft fog, they are there, peeking out and I hope one day they will walk all the way through the soft curtain of “forgotten”.

To all my family and friends who have walked next to me these past 7 1/2 months I thank you for your love and presence. I hope you will continue to stay by my side and help me regain my physical strength and my emotional health. Memories that we once shared may now be yours alone, and with time and nudging I hope those memories will become shared again.

To the blog followers who are not personal friends or family, thank you for the opportunity for me to share these feelings, thoughts and stories. I know they are an important part of my healing.

“It takes courage to grieve, to honor the pain we carry. We can grieve in tears or in meditative silence, in prayer or in song. In touching the pain of recent and long-held griefs, we come face to face with our genuine human vulnerability, with helplessness and hopelessness. These are the storm clouds of the heart.” Jack Kornfield

“Releasing the grief we carry is a long, tear-filled process. Yet it follows the natural intelligence of the body and heart. Trust it, trust the unfolding. Along with meditation, some of your grief will want to be written, to be cried out, to be sung, to be danced. Let the timeless wisdom within you carry you through grief to an open heart.” Jack Kornfield